Pairing: Grey's Anatomy; Callie/Erica
Spoilers: 5X01, 5X02
Word Count: 1,614
Summary: She wasn't ready, not for this, not for publicity, not for friendly teasing or vicious rumors. For once in her life, Erica Hahn didn't have a thick enough skin, wasn't prepared for the onslaught of emotions she was headed towards.
Disclaimer: All television shows, movies, books, and other copyrighted material referred to in this work, and the characters, settings, and events thereof, are the properties of their respective owners. As this work is an interpretation of the original material and not for-profit, it constitutes fair use. Reference to real persons, places, or events are made in a fictional context, and are not intended to be libelous, defamatory, or in any way factual.
Seattle Grace disgusted her. The politics, the gossiping, and the incestuous staff relationships; it was all a flagrant violation of her own pledge to keep her personal life far away from her career. Not that she hadn't gone down the work relationship route before. Of course she had. She'd fallen, and fallen hard, and for Preston Burke, no less. What a field day these interns would have if they knew that. But after she'd gotten her pride dragged through the mud again and again by Preston, after he'd not only stomped on her all-too-eager heart, but then had the gall to steal a fellowship out from under her at the same time...after all of that, she'd learned her lesson. No more work relationships.
And she'd stayed true to that promise.
But then Callie Torres had come along. And, dammit, Torres had broken through her defenses and rapidly become one of those women who only appear once in a lifetime. Erica hadn't even seen it happen. It was just that one day her only company had been stacks of medical journals and some tepid coffee, and then the next day she'd been swept up in drinking and dancing, in wine parties, yoga, and even a late-night movie or two. She'd felt human again, and she liked it. It had been too long since she'd been this close to another person, and she reveled in the feeling.
And then Callie had gotten closer. And Erica had found that even that wasn't enough. Addison's comments, as relayed to her by an embarrassed Callie one late evening at Joe's, had struck a chord and sent her into a panic. This wasn't something that happened to her. Oddly, it wasn't the gender issue that concerned her. Surprised her, yes, but it felt oddly fitting. No, what scared Erica was that she'd let it get this far with a colleague, that she cared this much about a friend. And so she dealt with it in the only way she knew how; not hiding from it, as Callie had tried to do, but by facing it head on and playing along with Callie's flirtations and talk of threesomes. She'd pushed it to the limit and even seized the upper hand with a kiss in an elevator that had surprised even herself. And for a little while that was enough.
But Erica found herself wanting more. And she didn't know how to articulate that. How do you say to your best friend, "hey, I think we're great together, but maybe there's something more...? Let's explore." Especially when you're not gay. Especially when she's not gay. How do you pull that off without risking everything?
So she'd sat back, and waited. And things with Callie had gotten tense; same old mirth, as usual, and for brief moments, things were fun, but then every so often, Callie would look at her with a strange expression, and brush past without a word. Usually going off in search of Mark. Which Erica hated, by the way.
She chalked it up to nerves. She figured Callie would come around, and things would go back to the way they were, the way they were before they'd ramped up the platonic flirtation. Because, clearly, they'd pushed it too far. And Erica knew that now was Not The Time to broach the subject of further exploration with her friend. So she'd sat back. And only allowed herself to explore the idea when she was alone, when hands could roam and thoughts could flow freely. But still, it wasn't enough. She was a woman obsessed. This change of heart disturbed her; Erica Hahn did not become preoccupied. Erica Hahn compartmentalized and delimited and, yeah, maybe even suppressed feelings, but it worked for her. This was too much. She ached for Callie, for the friendship and the intensity and the phantom touches that so frequently filled her thoughts these days. And, still, she'd stayed silent.
And then the unthinkable had happened. Callie Torres, orthopedic surgeon extraordinaire, the woman who commanded the affections of Mark Sloan, of all people, the woman who wrenched and bent and crushed for a living...Callie Torres had blushed, stammered, and then kissed her best friend. And Erica had stood there in a stupor until the adrenaline kicked in, and then she'd slid her hands to Callie's face and kissed her back fiercely. It was unreal. It was heady and passionate and completely unbelievable. Dream-like. And they'd stood there, and smiled, and everything had seemed okay.
But the next day, it had become clear that history would repeat itself, as history so often tends to do. Callie had seen her in hallways, ducked into conference rooms; Erica had fumbled for words, for thoughts, unsure and bewildered. The tension had drawn itself out for an agonizing two weeks, until Callie had once again taken the upper hand, and confronted Erica about it. Erica was floored. What was the next move? There was a pact between them, a Shiny New Pact that agreed they would take on the newness and scariness and uncharted territory, that they would take it on together and come away the better for it. And it worked. In private, conversation flowed freely, and gentle touches sent sparks flying. Erica couldn't remember being this blissfully happy in a great long while, and she needed it to be enough.
They were opposites in so many ways; Callie was open and emotional, Erica stoic and reserved. She knew this, and accepted it of herself. And she tried, honestly she did, tried to quell the rising panic when Mark teased her publicly about her relationship with Callie. Outwardly, she glared; inwardly, she quaked. She wasn't ready, not for this, not for publicity, not for friendly teasing or vicious rumors. For once in her life, Erica Hahn didn't have a thick enough skin, wasn't prepared for the onslaught of emotions she was headed towards.
She waited anxiously for the flood to spill over. Someone was bound to find out, and soon. Callie seemed okay with this, trailed her hands across Erica's shoulders as she passed by a nurse's station, shot her private grins across an operating table. Callie lived her life in the open; Erica did not. But sooner or later, she would have to.
And so, it begins. She's standing in the kitchen when Callie comes in that night, dumping her bag unceremoniously on the floor and pulling up a stool to the center island. Erica continues her dicing, methodically chopping, one two, one two, one two. Callie quirks an eyebrow at her.
"Erica, what's up? You were weird all day."
Erica's eyes flick up, but she doesn't know what to say. She offers a weak smile.
"Seriously, spill. Is something bothering you?"
Erica dumps the onions in the skillet, collects her thoughts, turns back to Callie, wipes her hands on her pants. There's too much happening, too soon.
"There's too much happening," she blurts out.
Callie watches her, waiting.
"It's just...hearing Mark talk about us was bad enough. I don't know if I can take the gossip mill. I don't know if I can handle your friends finding out."
"They're not my friends," Callie responds, seemingly ignoring the situation. "Well, yeah, Mark, and maybe even Cristina..."
"Oh, god, Cristina -" Erica slumps against the counter. "Callie. How am I going to maintain any sense of authority in surgery if everyone knows I'm screwing a colleague?"
Callie beams. "We're screwing?"
Erica glowers at her.
Laughter. "What? I appreciate the semantics. Got any other fun euphemisms?" She catches Erica's sullen look, and her face turns serious. Sliding off of the stool, she circles the island and moves behind Erica, running her hands up and over her shoulder blades. "Relax," she says. "I've been here before. And, yeah, it sucks, and yeah, they're gossip-hungry, but...they get over it. And when they do, it'll get to be just you and me again, except this time we won't have to act like we've never seen each other naked. And maybe you'll even let me kiss you in the cafeteria."
Erica drops her head, exposing a long ivory neck. "Callie, I'm maintaining professionalism."
"I'm not asking you to stop."
She turns to face Callie, and finds herself trapped by the arms on both sides of her. The edge of the counter cuts into her lower back, but it doesn't matter. "Callie..." she says. "Callie." She can't think of what else to say. Callie waits patiently. "I..." - she places one long hand on Callie's sternum and pushes gently backwards, straightening up. "Are you ready for this?"
Callie nods, and the immediacy of her reaction startles Erica. At the same time, though, it gives her courage. "You're sure?"
Callie smiles. "Erica, one disastrous relationship at work was enough. It's not an experience I'm eager to repeat. So don't question me when I say that I'm ready for this. I wouldn't say yes if I thought it was going to be disastrous."
Erica repeats her, almost unconsciously. "We're not disastrous."
"No, we're not," Callie replies, kissing her cheek. "We're fun and dangerous and turning into an old couple. And the onions are burning."
Erica quirks an eyebrow, confused. "What?"
"The onions, Erica."
"Oh...OH!" She rushes past Callie to the stove, and hears the woman laugh behind her before settling back onto a stool.
Callie's voice echoes in the apartment. "We're okay. Okay?"
It's enough. Erica smiles to herself and focuses on her cooking. And that evening, the food is good, and the company even better, and the future doesn't seem quite so scary.